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Gleaner, Golding and gays

Published:Sunday | June 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Ian Boyne, Columnist

The Gleaner has boldly bitten Bruce Golding's bait and has declared itself unabashedly on the side of gay marriage, scandalising conservative Jamaican society and inviting fire-and-brimstone condemnation from fundamentalist Christians.

But The Gleaner's zeal exceeds its intellectual rigour. In its editorial of Thursday, June 5, it displays contortions of logic, sloppy thinking and muddled reasoning. First, it engages in non sequitur argumentation by showing how heterosexual marriage is falling miserably and how relatively few people are taking up the option of marriage in this high-concubinage society. It uses those facts to indicate "the persistence of hypocritical and anachronistic attitudes that perpetuate discrimination".

So because such a high percentage of our people do not, in fact, marry and so many of us divorce, that means the definition of marriage as one man, one woman is thereby falsified? What kind of reasoning is that? If there is a philosophical case for same-sex marriage, whether heterosexual marriage is going well or not is irrelevant.

The Gleaner finds that our Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms is flawed and discriminatory because it defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, "thereby ruling out the possibility of formal recognition of same-sex relationships". This provision, we are lectured, "has its foundation in a deep-seated, if slowly receding, homophobia ...". Why is it necessarily homophobic to hold a view that marriage is between a man and a woman? Isn't that crude intolerance and bigotry? Say you disagree with that position. Show why it is grossly mistaken. But why ascribe to it the emotionally laden and reprehensible 'homophobia'? Homophobia is used as a conversation stopper by demagogues who want to shut down dialogue through verbal intimidation. Honest disagreement is not synonymous with homophobia. Opponents of same-sex marriage might well be dead wrong, and it might be that their view is silly religious dogma, but it doesn't have to be homophobic. Except one is asserting arrogantly that all opposition to homosexuality is necessarily homophobic. That is appalling intolerance.

The Gleaner editorial goes on to say, "It is unassailable logic that Section 28 (actually Section 18) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms is an assault on the principle of equality of people: of people's right to forge relationships ... ." So The Gleaner's philosophical point is that it is illegitimate to define marriage as exclusively male-female. When you do that, you assault "people's right to forge relationships" and to have those relationships legally recognised.

Firing back, Bruce Golding, who The Gleaner had taken to task in a previous editorial, asked last Sunday in widely responded-to piece online: "Section 18 ... should not prevent a man from marrying more than one woman or a woman from marrying more than one man." It is not absurd or mere slippery-slope thinking.

He is being entirely logical given The Gleaner's presuppositions. For why stop at same-sex marriage? Why not legitimise what is common practice in Jamaica: Men having more than one woman? Why not protect women's rights by demanding that outside women be given marriage rights and make men stand up to some legal obligations? That right to marry more than one woman would give some conscientious men the option of sharing assets with their currently disenfranchised lovers? So The Gleaner is not that bold after all?

MENTAL SLAVERY

The Gleaner is still conservative in seeing marriage as being between two people? But why stick with that backward traditional Western prejudice - steeped in Judaeo-Christian dogma? Why not liberate yourself from that mental slavery, Gleaner, and embrace polygamous unions as our African brethren?

And what about polyamorous relationships (married people with lovers)? That's growing. Some couples accept their mates' lovers as part of the family. We could redefine marriage to accommodate that. Don't say I am being ridiculous or trying to create straw men. I am arguing logically and unpacking fallacious thinking, exposing it for its vacuity.

So even some of those pushing for gay marriage accept distinctions. Distinction is not the same as discrimination. Even gay people have to answer the question, what is marriage? And, surprisingly, they are not too far in their definition from conservative and fundamentalist Christians. Both groups see marriage as involving two people alone. But who says so? Why is that cast in stone? Why doesn't The Gleaner feel that a woman who wants the right to marry more than one man is being denied her human rights?

WHAT IS 'WRONG'?

Why does The Gleaner believe that if an adult brother and sister - perfectly capable of making rational decisions - want to get married, they should not? Why, if they fall in love and want to get married, should they be denied that by the State? Why should the State be policing their bedrooms? Why is incest wrong? Because Leviticus says so? Come on, man, break free from the taboos of ancient nomadic tribes!

And if you raise arguments about health defects from incestuous relationships, what if the brother and sister are infertile? What would be wrong with their marriage? The Gleaner says people's right to forge relationships should be facilitated - "especially when the exercise of those rights does not impinge on the rights of others". Then they should get "equal protection under the law".

But if four people want to get married and form one family, why should they be discriminated against and not get "equal protection under the law"? If you continue to say I am being absurd and diversionary, you continue to miss my central point about why the question of our definition of marriage is crucial. Most gay-rights activists have not been radical enough. They don't push back far enough. But some have seen the logical force of my argument and there is now a beyond-same-sex-marriage lobby consisting of Ivy League professors and hundreds of gay-rights groups who have been pushing for legal recognition of sexual relationships involving more than two partners. Seems very logical to me, but The Gleaner is perhaps too conservative and timid to go there, imprisoned as it is within the paradigm of Judaeo-Christian culture.

One professor says justice demands legal recognition of unions beyond two persons, as we should " denormalise heterosexual monogamy as a way of life," for the sake of "rectifying past discrimination against homosexuals, bisexuals, polygamists and care networks". With righteous indignation, The Gleaner thunders: "Indeed, a denial of these human rights is also an attack on the dignity of individuals who are prevented from the public expression of the powerful human emotion of love within the sanctity of marriage ... ."

So what if two brothers, deeply in love and wanting to publicly demonstrate "the public expression of the powerful human emotion of love", want to solemnise that love, what arguments would The Gleaner and its fellow gay-marriage advocates advance? What if a 30-year-old daughter wants to marry her 50-year-old father and pledge lifelong commitment to him alone? Oh, that repulses you? Perhaps because you have been so brainwashed by fundamentalist religion all these years. You have no good naturalistic arguments against father-adult- daughter marriage or brother-brother, brother-sister marriage? Only cultural constructs and "religious bigotry". So, Madam or Mr Gay-Rights Activist, you are perhaps less liberated than you thought!

How would marriage between close relatives, multiple lovers, monks in a monastery and six people in an old people's home affect the rights of others, to use The Gleaner's criterion of acceptable moral behaviour and legal justification? "The religionists and churches who are not willing to embrace same-sex marriage but who already coexist in a morally plural society need not fear... ." Nor should The Gleaner, if it liberates its thinking beyond two-person marriage.

Over to you, editorial writer.

Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist who works with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ianboyne1@yahoo.com.